Chinese medical teams show fruits of co-operation

Zimbabwe has been a beneficiary of Chinese health assistance under this framework.

RECENTLY, China and Zimbabwe marked the 60th anniversary of Chinese medical teams at a colourful ceremony at the Chinese embassy in Harare.

The event was meant to commemorate how China launched its health assistance to Africa in 1963 in response to newly-independent Algeria’s call for foreign aid to bolster its fractured medical system. A team of 13 healthcare practitioners was the pioneer of China’s medical mission to any country in modern history.

Ever since China dispatched its first medical team to Algeria in 1963, a total of 30 000 medical personnel have treated 290 million patients in 76 countries and regions. Currently, Chinese medical teams are working at 115 sites in 56 countries around the world.

Zimbabwe has been a beneficiary of Chinese health assistance under this framework.

This year marks the 38th anniversary of the deployment of medical teams to Zimbabwe.

The country has deployed 19 medical teams to Zimbabwe with 188 medical personnel, treating more than 67 000 patients in total.

China’s health assistance to Zimbabwe has strengthened the country’s national health systems, including access to medicines, hospitals and infrastructure.

Unlike Western donors who often provide financial support for disease-specific interventions, China caters for every facet of health thereby benefiting many people.

Last year, the National Pharmaceutical Warehouse whose construction was funded by China was completed and handed over to Zimbabwe.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, where the Chinese medical teams operate from, benefited from the setting up of the Zimbabwe-China Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Centre, which provides free acupuncture treatment and training to local professionals.

In 2013, the Chinese government built the 130-bed Mahusekwa Hospital — known as the China-Zimbabwe Friendship Hospital — in rural Marondera district under the Forum for China-Africa Co-operation to help improve health provision in the rural areas where 70% of the population lives.

The construction of the US$6 million-dollar hospital, which was fully equipped, took two years and it was commissioned in 2013.

The most illustrious contribution in the history of Chinese medical co-operation was during the COVID-19 pandemic, which enabled Zimbabwe to slowly build its capacity to handle the pandemic.

Zimbabwe recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus in March 2020, at a time when its public health delivery system was least prepared to deal with the pandemic.

The Chinese medical team devoted itself to ending the COVID-19 pandemic by providing diagnosis and treatment services at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

Chinese companies operating in the country also played their part. In March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic they invested over US$500 000 for the rehabilitation of Wilkins Hospital in Harare, the country’s main isolation and treatment centre for COVID-19 at the time.

The renovations enhanced the hospital’s capacity to handle infections, increasing beds for COVID-19 patients to 60 from 35, with an additional 10 beds designated for the intensive care unit.

Zimbabwe also benefited from a US$100 million Zimbabwe-China Medical Equipment Loan Facility granted through the China Eximbank in 2011 and so far equipment worth US$77 million has been delivered and is being installed in 90 hospitals and clinics across the country.

During Cyclone Idai, the government of China and United Nations Population Fund handed over reproductive health medical equipment and medicines as part of the US$1,24 million support to the government’s Health Assistance Project for Women and Girls in Zimbabwe Affected by Tropical Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.

The objective of the assistance was to enable the Health and Child Care ministry to strengthen emergency obstetric and neonatal care in cyclone affected areas in Zimbabwe.

This was expected to contribute to the reduction of maternal morbidity and mortality by 20% in the affected districts in the country.

The future

Going forward, Zimbabwe can benefit much more from Chinese co-operation.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals where the Chinese medical teams operate from was chosen to participate in a co-operation mechanism of paired hospitals between the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China and the Health and Child Care ministry.

  • Elma Zhoya is a journalist at Alpha Media Holdings. She write here in her personal capacities.


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